Alonso enjoys F1 return, but admits he is not 100% fit yet

3 Comments

Fernando Alonso may have enjoyed his first running in a Formula 1 car for the first time in over a month today in practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix, but admitted that he does not feel fully fit after so long on the sidelines.

Alonso was hospitalized following an accident during pre-season testing in Barcelona on February 22. After consulting his doctors, the Spaniard missed the first race of the year in Australia to concentrate on his recovery.

However, he was able to return on Friday in Malaysia after passing the rigorous medical assessments set by the FIA, and completed 45 laps behind the wheel of the McLaren MP4-30.

“It feels great to be back in the car,” Alonso said following practice. “I enjoyed driving so much today.

“Maybe I’m not quite 100% fit after two weeks on the sofa and two weeks out of the car, but I’m fit enough to enjoy it out there.”

McLaren has endured a difficult start to the season after switching to Honda power units for 2015. In Australia, Kevin Magnussen failed to make the start of the race following an engine failure en route to the grid, whilst Jenson Button saw the flag in 11th place as the last classified finisher.

For Alonso, the early races in 2015 will all be about testing the car and getting it up to speed instead of instantly fighting at the front of the field.

“Today really feels like the second day of testing for me,” Alonso said. “I had one solid day’s running in Barcelona during the winter, when I did 63 laps, and I managed 45 today. Plus, we ran with zero problems, so that’s an important step, too.

“We are improving the aero package, gaining a greater understanding of the power unit, and we also have better interaction between everyone working on the car. Every lap is a learning curve for us.

“The car feels consistent and easy to drive, and it’s giving me the confidence to push it to the limit. We had some issues with braking consistency today, but we should be able to resolve those overnight. I feel great – I enjoyed today so much.”

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

Leave a comment

Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.